Two Sukhoi Su-34 strike aircraft of the Russian Air Force vanished from radar on January 18, 2019, during a training flight near Komsomolsk-on-Amur. One of the pilots managed to eject and was rescued.
The two fighter-bombers collided during an exercise above the sea of Japan, 35 kilometers away from the coast, according to the Russian Defense Ministry quoted by RIA Novosty. “The planes were not equipped with ammunition,” the ministry said. A rescue operation was launched with the help of an An-12 aircraft and two Mi-8 helicopters.
At least one parachute was seen on the spot, and shortly after, one of the pilots was found alive, according to the Russian news agency Interfax. He was picked up by a helicopter.
The fate of the second aircraft and its crew is still unknown. A TASS source said that it might have been able to return to base.
Su-34 is a fighter-bomber capable of conducting strike missions on air, sea and ground targets. It is operated by a crew of two people.
UPDATE 18-01-2019, 11:51 (UTC+2): A second Su-34 pilot was airlifted aboard a helicopter and was reported “in fair condition”.
Mixed reports about the fate of the second plane have emerged, and it is not known if the rescue operation is still ongoing to find two remaining crew members, or if the aircraft managed to return to base.
According to RIA Novosty, the search party is facing ”difficult weather conditions”, with a cyclone currently on the search area. The two aircraft involved in the collision probably faced the similar conditions during their exercise.
UPDATE 18-01-2019, 11:51 (UTC+2): Unlike what had been previously reported, only one crew member of the crashed Su-34 was found, said the Russian Ministry of Defense. The sole rescued navigator was evacuated to Khabarovsk to receive medical treatment.
The research operation continued throughout the day in adverse weather conditions. Four ships of the Russian Pacific fleet and a Tupolev Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft are involved. The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Pacific Fleet opened a criminal investigation regarding a possible violation of flight rules.